Part I (Being Pedestrian in China)
It was in Chongqing.
I stood in the queue to buy some street food when few people in the crowd suddenly addressed me in Chinese. From their gestures I guessed that they urged me to move aside. Next second I understood why – a car was driving backwards straight at me. From the driver’s maneuver I realized that he missed the correct turn at the crossroad and instead of continuing to the next intersection, simply decided to move back through the angle of sidewalk.
But what surprised me more than this insane act of driving was the fact that all other people around me didn’t see anything wrong about it!!
* * *
Possibly I was pissed off just because I didn’t spend enough time in China. Expats who live there for months and years get used to these peculiarities of traffic rules in mainland China. Or better to say traffic rituals which do not always align with the traffic rules.
Take, for example, crosswalks. It seems that neither drivers nor pedestrians abide by the written rules. On one hand, pedestrians recklessly cross streets in illegal places despite the heavy traffic. On another hand, cars do not stop at crosswalks and simply drive through the crowd.
In few (admittedly foolish) experiments when I wouldn’t give up and continued moving forward, drivers – instead of slowing down and giving me the right of way – simply cut me off by steering to the right and calmly proceeded through the crosswalk.
What Can Pedestrians in China Do?
Pedestrians have two options how to deal with this situation:
1) Insist on the right of way
Pedestrian’s right of way on the crosswalk hasn’t been abolished in China. If you are eager to make this world better and teach fools the traffic rules risking your own life – go ahead.
This is more or less what one Finnish expat is trying to do lately in Fuzhou.
2) Adjust to it
In one expats forum I found the following interesting comment:
They respect you more than you know. Chinese roads may seem lawless, but that’s because there’s only one rule: don’t hit anything. As much as they’re honking at you, they’ll still slow down for you even if you wander into the middle of the road where there’s no crosswalk. Having lived here for a while, I learned a long time ago that the trick to crossing a busy street is just to take a step of faith into the traffic. It’s almost like you’re shoving your way for a place on the road, just like you have to do on the Beijing subway. Chinese drivers have to deal with pedestrians on the road all the time, so they’re always watching.
In conclusion – did you know that in China the injuries from road traffic crashes are theleading cause of death for people 15 to 45 years old.
(Blog contributed by Augis, January 11, 2012 )
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